Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Tuesday, 20 April 2021) . . Page.. 879 ..
It is in the interest of children and families to have a well-regulated artificial reproductive technology sector. This has been acknowledged in other states across Australia that have regulatory frameworks in place. Currently, the ACT does not regulate in this space, and a regulatory framework should be seriously considered by the ACT government. This will support the significant proportion of our population that uses fertility services to have fair and ethical access to reproductive services and it will ensure the wellbeing of children born as the result of an ART procedures.
MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (4.29): The ACT Greens will be supporting Dr Paterson’s motion to investigate the accessibility and regulations around artificial reproductive technology in Canberra. I would like to begin by acknowledging the thousands of Canberrans who have been born through ART and the parents who have had children through ART. The process of ART, and IVF in particular, can have an enormous social, emotional and financial impact. For those couples who have undergone IVF, they are all too aware that IVF can be extremely expensive, physically invasive and emotionally taxing—sometimes resulting in a much-wanted baby, but oftentimes, heartbreakingly, not.
Infertility impacts 15 per cent of the population worldwide for a range of biological and social reasons and does not discriminate against rich or poor, meaning that the people who consider IVF come from many different walks of life. While some of the procedures offered by ART and IVF clinics have Medicare rebates, the gap is big and indirect discrimination in access remains. This means that many people are locked out of using ART as an option for starting their family. This includes many queer women and trans couples, and people from low socio-economic backgrounds.
During last year’s election, the ACT Greens promised to ensure that LGBTIQA+ people in the ACT have access to affordable and non-discriminatory reproductive services, such as ART and IVF treatment and procedures. At present some IVF clinicians seem to believe they are entitled to use their discretion as to whether same-sex couples are socially or medically infertile, which directly impacts on their ability to access Medicare. While this seemingly contradicts local anti-discrimination protections, it continues. I will quote a participant in the 2018 report from the Women’s Centre for Health Matters:
When we first went to the fertility clinic we saw [redacted] —we went on a recommendation from friends and our GP. After one year of meeting with her we found her to be judgemental and queerphobic as she continued to misstep—she would mis-gender me, make assumptions about how we wanted to parent and conceive, and refused to support us to access Medicare rebates where heteros[exual people] would have direct unquestioned access. Since changing clinics we’ve had a totally different experience immediately.
As this quote goes some way to demonstrating, there is an inherent vulnerability in the power dynamic between privately owned IVF clinics and those who use their services. This uneven power dynamic remains true regardless of a couple’s gender configuration. The information provided by IVF clinics on success rates, costs and the evidence base of so-called add-on treatments is notoriously mixed. The desire to have a baby is a powerful one, and the promise to provide it at a cost means that consumer transparency is extremely important.